Filmmaker Special Long Interview!
Elisabeth Lochen Roy Unger Mark Osborne Keith Milton
Chris Harwood and Bruce Laffey  

Elisabeth Lochen / Red Ribbon


Elisabeth is from France, but since 1998 she has lived full-time in Los Angeles. "I came here to the United States because you guys are making the films. And I want to come here because I can bring the European sensitivity, feelings, touch," she explains. She has a PhD in psychopathology, and in 1989 she and a friend developed the digital sound system which is now known as DTS. Red Ribbon is her first short and her film directorial debut, although she directed her first stage performance at age 7. Her next film project will be directing the feature-length thriller she wrote about racial selection called Gen.
About the film . . . About short film Current Projects
About American Short Shorts Personal favorites One more interesting thing . . .
2 About the film . . .
a. What do you think is the most unique aspect of your film?

"The letter," Elisabeth says without pause. She found the letter, which had been discovered originally on a German POW in WWII, in a paper about eugenics, or racial selection, while she was doing research for her feature, Gen. "When I read the letter," she explains, "I said, 'Oh, my God. That's absolutely unbelievable.' So when I had to find a subject for my short, I thought it could be a very good subject." Everyone she showed the letter to chuckled at first, until they began to appreciate the consequences of such a letter and fell frozenly silent. Indeed, Elisabeth says, even the first draft of Red Ribbon read as comedy.

"And it's my first short," Elisabeth adds. "A lot of people think that it's a trailer for a feature because of the quality. I was helped by very gifted people."

b. What was difficult in putting it all together?

"It was absolutely not difficult. I thought that it was the first time in my life that I felt like I'm at my right place when I was on the stage," says Elisabeth. "It was just the little green men or the small angels--or whatever, I don't know who!--was with us, but nothing was complicated. Nothing."

"When I saw the location we shot in, I had goose bumps because it was exactly the place I was looking for," she says. "Everything was perfect--except the price, which was really unaffordable." But she made a deal with him that she could have the location for one weekend at a much reduced price, as long as no one else came along offering full price. When someone did, and the shoot had to be pushed back a weekend, Elisabeth was panicked. "I was like, 'Oh, my God.' The crew is ready, everybody's ready. Less than five minutes later, I got a phone call from my DP, who was bringing the whole crew. He said, 'Elisabeth, I'm really sorry. The film I'm working on, I have to work one week more. I am unable to come and shoot this weekend.' And I was like, 'Oh, ok. I will try to get the location for the other weekend.'

The good fortune continued after filming began--from the natural sunlight that lights all of the shots in the apartment, to the gust of wind which serendipitously ruffles the curtains in the young girl's bedroom.

c. Talk about some unexpected surprises that arose

Elisabeth, whose native language is French, not English, was frazzled when her translator left for China three weeks before the shoot. "I was beginning to work with the actors. I had to change a lot of things. I was rewriting, and running all over the place asking, 'Is it correct grammatically? Is it correct?'"

Since shooting Red Ribbon was her first directing experience, Elisabeth warned her actors and crew that she'd need their help. The first day, she explains, "I didn't even know when I had to say 'Action.' So it was a friend of mine who pushed me the first time to say it."

Nevertheless, the shoot, "was like magic," she says. "My DP told me that his crew was always complaining about something, and he told me that during the 3 days, nobody complained about anything. . .
We worked as if we had worked together for 25 years. It was so easy. I mean unbelievably easy."

d. Talk about the reception your film has had a previous screenings

"You can't stay neutral in front of this film," observes Elisabeth. "People--friends, people I never met, people who just met me--tell me sometimes that they had bad dreams about my short." Despite it's profound effect on viewers, Elisabeth says that her short is not recognized by juries of classic short film festivals. "It's true it is like a trailer for a feature, which is not something that is good for short festivals because [the jury] are expecting that you are not perfect, that this is your first and they want to help you.
It's my first; I have so many things to learn, but I was helped by gifted people."

Elisabeth was especially disappointed that the jury did not officially recognize Red Ribbon when it played at the Palm Springs festival., but the jury, nonetheless, offered her high praise. "A lot of jurists told me they loved the short! And some of the jury are giving tapes to everybody of my short, so they didn't only tell me they loved it; they really are acting."
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2 About short film
a. Why is short film so great in your opinion?

To Elisabeth, a director's short film is like her business card. "It's like if you say, 'Now I want to make a feature. This is shorter, but look what I'm able to do.' And I tried to direct a feature without doing a short, but no. It's the only way to secure the producers."

Elisabeth chose to make her short under particularly challenging circumstances. "I didn't want to work with anybody I knew before because I wanted to put myself in the worst situation: not paying people, working with people I didn't know, in a language which was not my native language, and working between the United States and France (where she edited the film). . . . just to prove that I was able to make a feature, and this is a short which is able to bring people from laughter to beyond the tears in 11 minutes."

b. Why go to see shorts versus features?

"Because we are in a civilization of speed. In a short, sometimes, you have a beginning, middle, and end. And all in 10, 15, 20 minutes. You have the whole story. It's like Reader's Digest--Film Viewer's Digest."

Not only that, she says, but some ideas lend themselves more towards shorts than features. "Sometimes you have way to edit or to present a very interesting idea that's good in 5 minutes, but not in one hour and thirty minutes."

c. Are we in a shorts revolution?

"Yes, definitely," says Elisabeth, noting that the number of short films produced yearly is on the rise. And the market for them is growing according. "For example, in France we have two big TV networks which created their own short channels!"
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3 Current Projects
a. What current projects are you working on?

Elisabeth is currently working on her feature, Gen, and some commercials in France. Unlike Red Ribbon, Gen, is a thriller and takes place in present day, but the two films share the common theme of racial selection. Gen addresses that theme through a suspenseful tale about in vitro fertilization and modern genetic research. "Everybody thinks that eugenics died in the Nazi camp," says Elisabeth, "which is completely wrong."

b. Were those projects influenced by the short in ASS?

Elisabeth's short was actually influenced by her current project, Gen. "I wrote the script of Gen before I wrote the script of Red Ribbon. Red Ribbon I had to make only prove I was able to direct a feature."

Red Ribbon is part of what Elisabeth describes as her own "small crusade" to educate the public about the genetic research and manipulation that goes on today. "It's the biggest revolution humanity has ever seen, and no newspaper--not one--gives you the real picture of everything which is happening. . . . I need to make this film."

Elisabeth has been approached to direct a documentary about the survivors of the Nazi's breeding officers. But she fears the research would drag on for years, and that the public would not pay attention to a documentary--which is precisely why Gen is a thriller. "If the audience is watching a thriller, you can give them all the information you want because they are looking at something patiently," she says.

c. Ultimate goals as a film maker or something else?

"My main goal is to be able to take the audience to my world in order that they enjoy the show for one hour and 50 minute or a little bit more"
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4 About American Short Shorts
a. What went through your mind when you heard about a shorts fest in Japan?

When Elisabeth first started hearing about the festival in Japan, she was amazed to learn that it was only in its second year. " I thought it was 15 years old or something like that," she says. "It's unbelievable that they had all these people in only the first year."

For instance in Japan, I think that shorts are something they are not very used to. Their films are either very, very filled with all the kung fu or filled with all the old history. and for me Japan is wonderful country. And when she told me that everything was sold out, and they were even waiting on the stairs, just in case someone exited and they could take the place--I thought, My God, they got that on the fist year! Oh, I hope I could be selected because having such a audience of people waiting on the stairs to be able to enter the theater, it's great.

b. What would you like the Japanese audience to take home from your film?

"That the government cannot control everything."

c. Do you think that American shorts have a place in Japan?

Elisabeth answers emphatically yes. "I think that shorts are something they are not very used to [in Japan]," notes Elisabeth. "Their films are either very, very filled with all the kung fu or filled with all the old history."
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5 Personal favorites
a. Film

"In editing, processing, The Rock. With my heart, Amadeus."

b. One word that describes Japan


c. Favorite Director

"I think I don't have a favorite director, like I don't have a favorite wine, like I don't have a favorite food. Because some directors make very good films, and they are not perfect. For example, I like the way The Rock was edited but I don't like some things in the film."

d. A movie love scene that rocked your world?

"You know what? Immediately I know. The hand of Harvey Kietel on the neck of Holly Hunter in The Piano. Oh my god. When he put his hand like that, I never saw such an erotic scene. . . .His hand was perfect. Wow. Wow."
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6 One more interesting thing . . .
"I know it's very disturbing to watch, and my main target was the rape. Because I saw a lot of films where they showed rape. I'm sure if I were a man I would be excited by those scenes. . . . and I said, wait a minute, it's really not something like that that I want to show. It's only the pain and everything. So we shot the rape the first day. Because I didn't want that the young lady and the man to become friends by being together on the stage. They just met two days before. I asked them not to talk outside of the stage. So they didn't even talk during the meal. . . . And it was very hard for the young lady. I saw them at the end of the day, and even the day after she came back, she was really, really empty. She was completely destroyed. It was very hard for her, and I really want to thank her."
"You can say whatever you want, but whether you are a man or a woman, you can't say that this rape is sexually exciting, and that was for me the biggest challenge."
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